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Not another girl - the ultimate sexual discrimination: femicide!

By Greg Bondar - posted Tuesday, 18 January 2022


Banning sex-selection is a good start for reducing prenatal discrimination but can more be done?Pressure to ban prenatal sex-selection has grown with rising sex ratios at birth in some countries. Governments feel pressured to act, and bans seem an immediate step they can take. However, such bans have been in place for some time in South Korea, China, and India and the available evidence suggests they are difficult to implement and have limited impact. This is indicated most clearly in the Chinese census data, which throw light on the mixed effects of a very intensive effort to implement the ban.

Studies show that bans on sex-selection have negative consequences for unwanted girls and their mothers. By contrast, studies show that other policies - including mass messaging and measures to increase gender equity - show fairly quick impact in reducing son preference and increasing parental investment in girls. Such policies can permanently lower son preference and sex-selection, while also improving girls' life-chances.

Keywords: Sex-selection, abortion, son preference, gender equity, East Asia, South Asia

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Pressure to ban the use of modern technologies for sex-selection has grown in response to concern about rising sex ratios at birth in societies with a cultural preference for sons. Such bans have been in place for some time in countries such as China, South Korea and India, and countries in the South Caucasus and the Balkans, which have high sex ratios at birth, are under increasing pressure to impose such bans.

Governments feel the need to do something about sex-selection and bans seem an immediate step they can take to address this especially egregious manifestation of gender discrimination.

In Australia, on 21 March 2013, on the recommendation of the Senate Selection of Bills Committee, the Senate referred the Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Funding for Certain Types of Abortion) Bill 2013 (the Bill) to the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 25 June 2013 on the following:

• The unacceptability to Australians of the use of Medicare funding for the purpose of gender selection abortions;

• The prevalence of gender selection – with preference for a male child – amongst some ethnic groups present in Australia and the recourse to Medicare funded abortions to terminate female children;

• The use of Medicare funded gender selection abortions for the purpose of 'family-balancing' and

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• Support for campaigns by United Nations agencies to end the discriminatory practice of gender selection through implementing disincentives for gender selection abortions; and

FamilyVoice Australia at that time submitted information from studies of Canadian and United States birth rates that indicated some evidence of gender selective abortion occurring in some communities including communities from India, China, Korea, and Vietnam.

However, bans may not be the most effective or humane way to reduce sex-selection. There is limited evidence that bans have much impact, and studies show that unwanted girls and their mothers are at increased risk of maltreatment in the household. By contrast, studies indicate that measures that seek to alter people's norms are effective at enhancing gender equity, thereby reducing the demand for sex-selection.

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About the Author

Greg Bondar serves as the NSW State Director of Family Voice Australia. He has been working as a senior executive within the not-for-profit, government, and the corporate sector for over 30 years

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